Stomach bloating causes can be complex and wide-ranging, although most cases are caused by a build-up of wind in the gastrointestinal tract (GI) brought on by eating gassy food. The NHS says avoiding gassy culprits, such as beans and onions, should help to ease bloating, although for some people, the problem may persist. Expert opinion suggests an alternative remedy for bloating is to include certain foods in one’s diet, including an exotic fruit.
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According to TV doctor Dr Oz: “A 2009 study showed that raw papaya contains a white, milky substance called papain and when ripe, the fruit is moderately laxative and helps in the movement of the bowels.”
He added: “Although it is not the most popular or readily available fruit, papaya may be worth considering. Try using fresh papaya slices in a breakfast smoothie.”
Furthermore, medical website LiveStrong suggests papain may to help reduce gas in people who don’t produce enough of the enzymes necessary for breaking down proteins in the digestive tract.
It said: “It contains an enzyme called papain that can improve digestion by helping to break down proteins.”
A more recent study, investigating the impact of eating papaya as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), echoes these findings.
People who took a papaya-based formula for 40 days had significant improvement in constipation and bloating.
If a person’s bloating is caused by fluid retention, eating a banana may also help to beat the bloat, according to Dr Oz.
As he explained, high sodium intake, which is hidden in processed foods, attracts and retains water in the body, which can cause the tummy to swell.
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Potassium, the mineral found in bananas, can help counter sodium’s role and restore the water balance in the body.
He said: “If your bloat is a result of yesterday’s salty dinner, try adding sliced banana to your morning oatmeal for some balance.”
Other triggers of bloating
According to the NHS, tummy swelling may also signify you have an intolerance to certain foods.
Food intolerance can lead to bloating when:
- Your bowel does not empty properly
- The food causes gas to be trapped
- Too much gas is produced as a reaction to the food
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The most common offenders are wheat or gluten and dairy products, so cutting down on these culprits can help to ease symptoms, although, as the NHS points, do not get rid of food groups long-term without advice from your GP.
Keeping a food diary and jotting down everything that you eat and drink and when bloating troubles you most is a handy way to keep bloating at bay, advises the health body.
As a general rule, foods classed as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) tend to be the worst triggers for bloating, according to Harvard Health.
As Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, explained: “We all have an increased amount of gas in the body after eating them, but some of us react to them more severely than others.”
When to see a doctor
According to the NHS, if your bloating symptoms persist, consult your GP to rule out a more serious condition. Bloating and a persistent feeling of fullness are key symptoms of ovarian cancer, warns the health body.
How can bloating lead to ovarian cancer? Dr Oz explained: “When ovaries turn cancerous they often swell, causing a swelling in the belly that resembles bloating. Hormonal changes that occur during ovarian cancer can also cause bloating.”
As he points out, a recent article in the British Medical Journal found that bloating is the most predictive sign of ovarian cancer.
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